Goodbye and good riddance, January. Sheesh, what a particularly nasty month you were. I’m still reeling from the amount of death, disease, discord, debt, destruction, desperation, depression, deception and despair you dispensed with such damned doleful dark delight. Doesn’t D just have the very ring of doom? Dread, with a D on either end, sums it up. And really such a dreary month, so dismal, doleful, dank and dire. And so much damp…the windows are breeding mould again; I spend dolorous days digging at the crystal froth sprouting from the damn walls of the dank dungeon.
But. We made it. Well, most of us, anyway. We’re still standing. Okay, so some of us are hobbling on crutches; some of us are clutching our hearts; some of us are poking desperately with sticks at doctors and bailiffs. But we’re still here. More or less.
And now it’s February. Yes, it still seems cold and damp, dreary and dark on the outside but look closely and there are small signs that life is beginning again. Snowdrops are scattering the hedgebanks on Exmoor. In fact, if I squint hard, I can see them out in the garden from my turret window too.
In Native American tradition this is known as the ‘Cleansing Time’; the time when the world is scoured and purified before the cycle of life starts over again. It’s the pause before the fresh start. And before a fresh start, you need trust and hope.
Today or tomorrow (depending on your tradition) is Imbolc, that the Christian Church transformed into Candlemas - the festival of lights. It marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. It’s the festival of hope, of trust, of dreaming of better times to come.
I’ll brave the icy garden to pick some snowdrops (superstition says you shouldn’t bring them into the house before Imbolc). When Eve sat weeping after being expelled from Eden, the snow fell all around her, her tears turning to ice. An angel took pity on her, caught a snowflake in his hand, breathed on it and let it fall to earth as the first snowdrop. The flower bloomed and hope was born.
I have this little ritual I usually do at Candlemas. I’ll wait until darkness falls and sit quietly in the velvet black. Then, slowly, one by one, I’ll light tiny candles (whispering a wish with every one). Gradually the light will increase. It will, it will.
Our ancestors held on hope as they looked out on the bleak landscape; they had faith that the sun would return. Imbolc is about keeping faith – in ourselves, in those we love, in life.
Even when it seems as though life has taken everything; even when you are let down and hurt, dejected and despairing, the one thing nobody and nothing can take away from you are your dreams.
Dreaming is free.
Of course there is another way. Sometimes you look at the snowdrops and the little candles and you just say, oh feck it! Feck the lot of it! And then you just crank up the music, set the controls for the heart of the sun and you just, just, just….